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Not in Our Name

An open letter on the current crisis in Israel / Palestine, from an ad hoc group of Jewish women activists. We delivered an earlier version of this statement to the Consul General in Boston, and we are now distributing it more widely in the Boston area.

 

11 Dec. 2000

We have submitted to the Israeli government an alternative Jewish perspective on the current crisis in the Middle East to that which has been advanced in the barrage of public statements made by those who may appear to represent the American Jewish community. The overwhelming sentiment expressed in these pronouncements and demonstrations has been unconditional support of the actions of the Israeli government and vehement condemnation of the "violence of the Palestinian Authority."

As Jewish American women who have long worked for social justice on a variety of fronts, and who support peaceful coexistence between the Palestinian Arab and Israeli Jewish peoples, we wish to make clear that these organizations and individuals do not speak for us. Nor do they speak for many other American Jews whose views have been either unexpressed or ignored by the mainstream media during the past month.

We mourn all the deaths. We abhor the loss of Jewish lives in this conflict and the tragic implications of the renewed violence for Israel. We cannot, however, ignore the fact that the overwhelming number of families shedding tears for their loved ones killed and maimed these past weeks have been Palestinian. We are both pained and outraged by the killing of over 150 Palestinians, including Palestinian citizens of Israel, by Israeli forces that are, in effect, an occupying army in the areas under siege. We support the call for immediate international protection for the Palestinian people.

We refute the view that the Palestinian Authority is responsible for initiating the current conflict, and condemn the arrogant and deliberately provocative action of Ariel Sharon that set the chain of bloody events in motion. We likewise deplore the support that the Israeli government provided for Sharon's trip to the disputed holy site—despite the fact that he was beseeched not to go by many sources who were apprised of his intentions in advance—and the government’s failure to sanction him after the fact. This is not the first time Sharon's hateful and irresponsible conduct has had deadly consequences for Palestinians.

We support the Palestinian right to self-determination. In this, we take our inspiration from the long history of Jewish participation in struggles for liberation and justice for all peoples, a history which is stained by Israel's current status as an abusive occupying power. As Jews, how can we fail to recognize and condemn the flagrant injustice of Israel's disproportionate use of massive military might—including high velocity bullets, helicopter gunships and anti-tank missiles—against a Palestinian civilian population armed mostly with stones? Fifty years of conflict have increasingly compromised the ideals that contributed to Israel’s founding and have caused a new generation of Israelis to suffer for political goals that many Jews inside and outside Israel do not share.

We refuse to allow our views to be characterized either as the product of "internalized anti-Semitism" or as a "betrayal" of our people just because we do not participate in the unqualified support of Israel that is expected of us as Jewish Americans. We are proud Jewish women who are well aware that anti-Semitism continues to thrive—and to impact Jews—around the world. We actively challenge it through our work for social change. But we unequivocally reject the view that the experience of having been victimized legitimates or excuses the exploitation of others.

We call upon the Israeli government to end immediately its immoral and illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and to dismantle the unlawful Jewish settlements it has used to subvert the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. Such actions would demonstrate Israel's true commitment to achieving peaceful coexistence alongside a sovereign Palestine, and would honor the tradition of justice that infuses Jewish teachings, Jewish practice and Jewish history. We also call upon American Jews and the United States government to join with us in supporting the right to Palestinian self-determination, and peace with justice and security for the Jewish and Palestinian peoples. Finally, we call upon the international community to provide immediate protection for the Palestinian people.

We urge all American Jews who do not support the Israeli government's actions against the Palestinian people to join us in speaking out in every way you can. Contact the Israeli Consulate. Write to President Clinton, Madeline Albright, local and national elected officials, and the editors of the publications you read. Challenge those around you who continue to support Israel uncritically. Educate yourself about Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights. Support the work of groups fighting for Palestinian sovereignty and dignity. And remember what our history tells us: silence in the face of injustice is complicity with injustice.

Jewish women who would like to add their voice to ours as a means of saying “Not in Our Name” can contact us at JewishWomenActivists@yahoo.com.